Second after Pentecost, Mark 3:20-35, Lectionary reading for June 6, 2021

Satan can not cast out Satan, only God can cast out Satan; you can not do good through evil means.

This passage of scripture comes early in Jesus’ ministry. He hasn’t been teaching and healing for long, but word has spread. There are so many people crowded around him, his family can’t get close enough to check up on him and see for themselves if all the rumours are true. His family wonders if he’s out of his mind, and the scribes think he’s possessed by demons.

But hang on a minute. Moments ago he healed a man with a withered hand, and before that he performed several other miracles: he healed a man with an unclean spirit (Mark 1:21-28), healed many others at Simon’s house (1:29-34), cleansed a leper (1:40-45), and restored a paralyzed man (2:1-12)! The religious authorities accuse Jesus of using the power of Satan to do these works, but Jesus points out what the crowd already knows: these miracles are only possible through God’s power.

Satan can’t achieve evil ends with good works, and neither can we achieve positive outcomes if the path is one of evil, deception, or cruelty. Whenever humans try to use just a *little* evil in the name of the greater good, things fall apart. It’s as though Satan is waiting for us to steal that money we promise to use to help widows and orphans, only to pounce and really get us in his grips, and convince us that stealing a little more won’t hurt, and neither will spreading that rumour or starting that fire. If you want to do good, you gotta do good!

While this is a tricky idea to get across to little ones, I found the perfect story to make the concept easier to understand. The Snatchabook is a little critter who desperately wants a bedtime story, but doesn’t have anyone to read to him. His solution? He will steal some books! The families of Burrow Down miss their books and want them back. What’s worse, they accuse each other of stealing the books, leading to suspicions and hurt feelings. Eliza stays up all night to solve the mystery and meets the Snatchabook. She explains that stealing is wrong and helps the little fellow make amends.

There’s nothing wrong with needing a bedtime story! But the Snatchabook learns that stealing stories isn’t the right way to go about meeting that need. Once the books were all returned and the Snatchabook made his apologies, the families of Burrow Down welcome him into their homes for story time. The wrong way often seems like the easy way, and it takes guidance from caring adults for children to learn that doing the wrong thing only ever leads to more wrong things, while doing the right thing, even if it seems like so much more work, will lead to even better things.

Questions to ask before you read:

  • Do you know anyone who has stolen anything? Ask for stories without names.
  • Why do you think people steal?
  • Do you think there’s ever a good reason to steal?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • Would you let the Snatchabook into your home after he stole all of those books? Why?
  • What do you think the Snatchabook should have done instead of starting to steal?
  • When you can’t think of a good way to solve your problem, who can you go to for help?

Docherty, Helen. The Snatchabook. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2013.

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